What To Do During a Traffic Stop
Several recent traffic stops have made headlines when the situation quickly escalated. When you are pulled over in South Carolina, you should know what your rights are as well as how you should handle the situation to avoid further trouble. Here are some tips on what to do when law enforcement pull over your vehicle.
When You See the Lights
As soon as you are aware that a police car wants to pull you over, you should do so immediately in a safe manner. If you continue to drive, it could raise suspicions and even merit another charge. Use your turn signals and pull your vehicle onto the right shoulder of the road. The closer you are to the scene where the officer claims you violated the law, the more easily you will be able to review the area and look for any potential holes in the officer’s claims.
In general, experts recommend that you should be polite during a traffic stop, even when an officer is acting aggressively. While it can be easy to become belligerent, doing so will usually only make the situation worse. After you pull over your car, you should do the following:
- Roll down your window
- Turn off the vehicle
- Put both hands on the steering wheel
Wait to reach for any documents until you are instructed to do so. Otherwise, the officer may mistake your actions for something else, such as trying to hide something or pull out a weapon.
Keep It Simple
It is important to note that you can be polite – or civil – without doing much talking. In fact, you should let the officer do most of the talking and simply answer “yes” or “no” during the conversation. This will keep you from becoming argumentative and it may prevent you from saying something that could incriminate you. For example, if the officer asks if you know why you were pulled over, simply respond with, “No.”
Ask for Identification
In most cases, it will be a marked car that pulls over your vehicle. However, in the event that the officer is in an unmarked car or you believe that the person may not be a member of law enforcement, you are allowed to ask to see the officer’s badge and identification.
Avoid Giving Probable Cause
If the officer has reason to believe you are trying to hide something, he or she may search your vehicle. A search is not permitted during a routine traffic stop unless the officer has a valid reason to do so. If you throw something out the window or scramble to hide something as the officer approaches your car, you may be subject to a search. At the same time, if there is something in plain view, such as a weapon or drugs, the officer can inspect it.
Traffic stops can quickly turn into searches and arrests, even for people who have done no wrong. If you believe you have been accused of a traffic crime, please contact our attorneys at Nosal & Jeter, LLP by calling (803) 351-3597.